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FATIGUE

Feeling of tiredness or exhaustion or a need to rest due to a of lack of energy or strength. It may result from overwork, poor sleep, worry, boredom, or lack of exercise. It is a symptom that may be caused by illness, medicine, or medical treatment such as chemotherapy. Anxiety or depression can also cause fatigue. The use or abuse of alcohol, caffeine, or illegal drugs can cause fatigue.

In most cases, mild fatigue occurs with a health problem that will improve with home treatment and does not require a checkup with a doctor

A visit to a doctor usually is needed when fatigue occurs along with more serious symptoms, such as increased breathing problems, signs of a serious illness, abnormal bleeding, or unexplained weight loss or gain.

Fatigue that lasts longer than 2 weeks usually requires a visit to a doctor. This type of fatigue may be caused by a more serious health problem, such as:

  • Anemia which is a decrease in the amount of hemoglobin found in red blood cells, a substance that carries oxygen.
  • Heart problems that limit the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle or the rest of the body such as coronary artery disease or heart failure.
  • Metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, in which sugar (glucose) remains in the blood rather than entering the body’s cells to be used for energy.
  • Thyroid problems
    • Hypothyroidism (decreased levels of thyroid hormones)
      • fatigue, weakness, lethargy, weight gain, depression, memory problems, constipation, dry skin, intolerance to cold, coarse and thinning hair, brittle nails, or a yellowish tint to the skin
    • Hyperthyroidism (increased levels of thyroid hormones)
      • fatigue, weight loss, increased heart rate, intolerance to heat, sweating, irritability, anxiety, muscle weakness, and thyroid enlargement.
    • Kidney disease and liver disease, which cause fatigue when the concentration of certain chemicals in the blood builds up to toxic levels.
    • Chronic fatigue syndrome is an uncommon cause of severe, persistent fatigue.

If fatigue occurs without an apparent cause, mental health evaluation is important. Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression. Fatigue and depression may become so severe that some consider suicide as a means to escape the condition. If you think your fatigue may be caused by a mental health problem, consult your doctor.

DIAGNOSIS

Physician may do/request:

  • History & Physical Exam
    • What is your major symptom, weakness or fatigue?
    • Have you had these symptoms before? If so:
      • Did you see a doctor for an evaluation of your symptoms?
      • What was the diagnosis?
      • How were your symptoms treated?
    • What other symptoms do you have that may be related to your major symptom?
    • How long have you had your symptoms? Describe what was happening when you first noticed your symptoms.
    • What makes your symptoms better or worse?
    • What home treatment have you tried?
    • Are you experiencing any particular stress at home, work, or school that could be causing your weakness or fatigue?
    • Are you using any alcohol or other drugs, such as caffeine or nicotine, that may be causing fatigue?
    • What medicines have you used, both prescription and nonprescription?
    • Do you have any health risks?

 

RECOMMENDED MEDICATIONS

Home Treatment

  • Adequate rest is vital to recovery
    • If you have a cold, you may be able to stick to your usual routine and just get some extra sleep.
    • If you have the flu, you may need to spend a few days in bed.
  • Return to your usual activities slowly to avoid prolonging the fatigue.
  • Be sure to drink extra fluids to avoid dehydration.

If generalized weakness and fatigue are not related to another illness, follow these guidelines:

  • Listen to your body. Alternate rest with exercise as physical activity may help decrease your fatigue
  • Limit medicines that might contribute to fatigue such as tranquilizers and cold and allergy medicines
  • Eating a balanced diet may increase your energy level and do not skip meals, especially breakfast.
  • Reduce your use of alcohol or other drugs such as caffeine or nicotine.
  • Break the cycle of fatigue by cutting back on watching television and spend that time with friends, try new activities, or travel.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. This may be the first step toward controlling fatigue.
    • Eliminate all sound and light disturbances.
    • Do not eat just before you go to bed.
    • Use your bed only for sleeping. Do not read or watch TV in bed.
    • Get regular exercise but not within 3 to 4 hours of your bedtime.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • New symptoms develop along with the weakness and fatigue.
  • Symptoms last longer than 2 weeks.
  • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.

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